JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — COVID patients began lining up Tuesday at the Jacksonville Main Library Conference Center to receive monoclonal therapy. Thanks to a recent order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, people infected with COVID-19 are now able to receive the antibody treatment without a prescription or medical referral.
Is this photo, posted on Reddit Thursday, claiming to show severely ill COVID patients lying on the ground at the Main Library waiting for monoclonal therapy real?
Louie Lopez, the author of the photo wrote:
"Everyone please be careful - whether you are vaccinated or not. My husband (vaccinated, but positive) has been waiting 2+ hours for monoclonal therapy and he says he has never seen people so sick. Moaning, crying, unable to move."
Around noon Thursday, 22 hours after it was posted, the photo had nearly 250 comments and nearly 800 "up votes," the system Reddit uses to allow its users to increase the visibility of posts.
The City of Jacksonville, Florida
Florida Department of Health
Yes, the photo is real. First Coast News reached out to city officials Thursday morning seeking validity of the image. Nikki Kimbleton, director of communications/public affairs for Jacksonville, sent the following statement:
"The volume of patients at this state operated facility more than doubled yesterday. There were wheelchairs on hand, but at the time these pictures were taken, all of the available wheelchairs were in use. In order to support the State of Florida in their efforts to provide this important treatment (that they’ve contracted out to CDR Maguire), JFRD and COJ are providing triple the number of wheelchairs, additional seating for those waiting in line and signage that directs patients to alert someone if they need any type of assistance."
The city later amended the statement, adding that “monoclonal antibody treatment is the key to alleviating stress on area hospitals” and thanked Governor DeSantis for providing the treatment to Jacksonville residents.
According to Kimbleton, the people pictured were waiting for treatment. When asked if the city has a message for people who may be seeking this treatment, Kimbleton sent the following statement:
"This treatment is meant to keep people OUT of the hospital and is designed for those early on in their COVID-19 diagnosis or for those who believe they have been exposed to COVID. Individuals with severe symptoms should contact a medical professional for guidance on the proper treatment for their situation."
This site is state-run and city-supported. A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health said she wanted to assure everyone that this is not a normal incident that takes place at any of the state's antibody treatment centers.
She said cots are available for patients, and "when someone is at that level [pictured], they are moved" and helped to a better location. She also said if someone is in a state where they need to be transported to a hospital, there are ambulatory services to ensure they're taken quickly to a hospital.
The Florida DOH spokesperson also said there are people and resources available at the site to give patients everything they need medically. Healthcare workers at the site make the judgement call if someone is too sick to get the treatment and should go to the hospital instead, the spokesperson said.
She said the state is also providing more resources to all of the sites to "ensure something like that is not happening." This morning at the downtown site, the Florida DOH spokesperson said, they were already expanding existing cots for people who need privacy while they wait for the treatment.
The spokesperson said it's recommended that you get the treatment within three to five days of testing positive. If someone comes in past that timeline and is still identified to be in the window that's appropriate to get the treatment, they won't be turned away, she said.
What We Found
Monoclonal antibody treatment is offered at the center for those 12 and older. It is recommended for those who tested positive for COVID-19, were exposed, or within 10 days of symptom onset.